Formica cruises to win over Ritter in 20th District

Paul Formica, candidate for state Senate representing the 20th District, receives hugs from his three daughters Ali Formica, from left, 27, Hannah Formica, 24, and Olivia Formica, 23, second from right, after receiving a phone call from Betsy Ritter conceding the election at Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant in East Lyme Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.  Nine-year-old Grace Quilliam, right, of Killingworth, Conn., who volunteered on his campaign looks on.
Paul Formica, candidate for state Senate representing the 20th District, receives hugs from his three daughters Ali Formica, from left, 27, Hannah Formica, 24, and Olivia Formica, 23, second from right, after receiving a phone call from Betsy Ritter conceding the election at Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant in East Lyme Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Nine-year-old Grace Quilliam, right, of Killingworth, Conn., who volunteered on his campaign looks on.

For the first time in a quarter-century, there will be a Republican state senator in the 20th District.

Republican Paul Formica effectively ended the long political career of Democrat Betsy Ritter on Tuesday, outpolling her in the race to represent constituents in the towns of Bozrah, East Lyme, Montville, New London, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Salem and Waterford and breaking the Democratic stranglehold on the 20th District.

The last time a Republican represented the district was 1990, when the late Lawrence J. Bettencourt was elected. He served a single two-year term before being replaced by Democrat Melodie Peters, who held the job until Democrat Andrea Stillman succeeded her a decade ago.

Stillman’s decision not to seek a sixth term set up the race between Ritter, who has filled the state’s 38th District House seat for the past decade, and Formica, East Lyme’s incumbent first selectman and the owner and operator of Flanders Fish Market for the past 31 years.

With the exception of another one-term stint by Republican Pierce Connair in 1984, Democrats have represented the 20th District for more than 40 years.

But Tuesday, voters decided they wanted a change in Hartford, and Formica beat Ritter in seven of the eight towns in the district, including her hometown of Waterford. She prevailed only in New London.

Formica, 61, focused his campaign on his concern for small businesses and young people and said his long career as a businessman and a municipal leader would give him a unique insight into legislative matters.

At Democratic headquarters in Waterford Tuesday night, there was silence, an occasional moan and long faces as the poll numbers came in and were recorded on a wall chart.

Friends and supporters stood beside Ritter as the numbers from Waterford, showing that Formica had outpolled her there, were recorded.

But as the mood darkened in Waterford, it grew lighter in East Lyme at Flanders Fish Market, where a large crowd had gathered to wait to see if Formica could pull off a victory.

About 9:45 p.m., Ritter and Formica spoke by phone, and Ritter conceded and congratulated him.

After the call, and a tearful, impromptu meeting with his three grown daughters in a doorway, he took to the podium to address the overflow crowd.

“Holy moly,” Formica said. “How about those as my first words as senator-elect?”

He went on to say how humbled and proud he was to be elected a state senator.

Throughout the day, Formica had crisscrossed the sprawling district, meeting up with Heather Somers and Tim Herbst, the Republican lieutenant governor and state treasurer candidates, at different stops. About 4 p.m. he stopped for a late lunch at the Penny Lane Pub in Old Saybrook with daughters Ali, Hannah and Olivia, and other campaign workers.

“Believe me, I know the odds are stacked against me,” he said over his hamburger. “But people are hungry for a change; I know that from campaigning.”

a.baldelli@theday.com

Twitter: @annbaldelli

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2014 Election Guide

Betsy Ritter, candidate for the 20th District state Senate, takes a call while in the Democratic headquarters in Waterford on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Betsy Ritter, candidate for the 20th District state Senate, takes a call while in the Democratic headquarters in Waterford on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Betsy Ritter, candidate for the 20th District state Senate, takes a call while in the Democratic headquarters in Waterford on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Betsy Ritter, candidate for the 20th District state Senate, takes a call while in the Democratic headquarters in Waterford on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Paul Formica, candidate for state Senate representing the 20th District, receives hugs from daughters Olivia Formica, center, 24, and Ali Formica, right, 27, as they watch results coming in Tuesday with their family at Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant in East Lyme.
Paul Formica, candidate for state Senate representing the 20th District, receives hugs from daughters Olivia Formica, center, 24, and Ali Formica, right, 27, as they watch results coming in Tuesday with their family at Flanders Fish Market and Restaurant in East Lyme.
Betsy Ritter, left, talks with state Sen. Andrea Stillman while she waits for the election results for her 20th District state Senate race against Paul Formica at the Democratic headquarters in Waterford.
Betsy Ritter, left, talks with state Sen. Andrea Stillman while she waits for the election results for her 20th District state Senate race against Paul Formica at the Democratic headquarters in Waterford.

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